Museum of Art Presents Three Exhibitions Exploring Mythological Themes, Spanning the 16th Century to Today

The Bowdoin College Museum of Art presents three focus exhibitions, spotlighting historical and 20th-century artists’ approaches to, and interpretations of, classical Greek mythology. Together the exhibitions —including Hendrick Goltzius: Mythology and Truth; Weaving the Myth of Psyche: Baroque Tapestries from the Wadsworth Atheneum, and Alison de Vere’s short film, Psyche and Eros (1994) — explore key themes that mythological narratives have evoked over time and that continue to resonate in contemporary culture.

“These complementary exhibitions provide our Museum and College audiences a unique opportunity to engage with the timeless enchantment of classical mythology through a range of creative mediums,” said Frank Goodyear, co-director of the Bowdoin College Museum of Art.

“We are excited to bring to light the diverse ways in which these mythological stories have resonated with artists throughout history, and their continued relevance in contemporary culture.”

“Minerva” from the series “Three Deities,” 1596, engraving.

“Minerva” from the series “Three Deities,” 1596, engraving.

On view through March 1, 2015, Hendrick Goltzius: Mythology and Truth features a group of prints and one painting that showcase the Dutch artist’s evolution as one of the most skilled printmakers of the late 16th and early 17th centuries.

Born in 1558, Goltzius was both a renowned painter and printmaker during his lifetime, and first gained critical acclaim as one of Northern Europe’s leading mannerists. Today, Goltzius is best known for his sumptuously detailed engravings that bring diverse subjects to life—from renderings of the King of France to the feats of Hercules to the life of the Virgin Mary. Hendrick Goltzius: Mythology and Truth examines the artist’s illustrious and versatile career, illuminating new aspects of Goltzius’s artistic legacy by presenting his ongoing thematic and technical experimentation in the medium of printmaking at the end of the 16th century.

"Psyche Carried to the Mountain," ca. 1660. Wool, silk, and gold thread. Courtesy of the Wadsworth Atheneum.

“Psyche Carried to the Mountain,” ca. 1660. Wool, silk, and gold
thread. Courtesy of the Wadsworth Atheneum.

Mythology and Truth includes Goltzius’s engraving The Wedding of Cupid and Psyche, the classical myth further explored in the exhibition on view in the adjoining gallery, Weaving the Myth of Psyche: Baroque Tapestries from the Wadsworth Atheneum. On view through March 8, 2015, Weaving the Myth of Psyche features five rare 17th-century tapestries depicting the tumultuous love affair of Psyche and Eros. These tapestries derive from a 1660 cycle designed for a noble family in Paris during the reign of King Louis XIV. Though the designs were initially attributed to Raphael, they have since been reattributed to the Flemish artist Pieter Coecke van Aelst (1502–1550), who conceived some of the most ambitious tapestry series of the 16th century, and whose achievements are currently highlighted in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s exhibition Grand Design: Pieter Coecke van Aelest and Renaissance Tapestry.

“It is wonderful to be able to share the Wadsworth Atheneum’s magnificent Psyche tapestries with Bowdoin College,” said Linda Roth, Wadsworth Atheneum curator and Bowdoin Trustee. “These examples are especially interesting, having been originally designed and woven in Brussels in the 16th century and then reprised in Paris a century later. Beautifully woven, with lush colors enriched with gold-wrapped threads, they tell a timeless story, and are extraordinary records of period fashions and furnishings.”

Still (detail) from the film, "Psyche and Eros," 1994, by Alison de Vere.

Still (detail) from the film, Psyche and Eros, 1994, by Alison de Vere.

The myth of Cupid and Psyche dates to the 4th century BCE, and regained popularity in early modern Europe after the rediscovery of The Golden Ass, a novel by 2nd-century Roman author Apuleius. Apuleius tells the story of the romance between the mortal Psyche and the god Cupid, which is thwarted by the jealousy of the goddess Venus. Immortalized in these Baroque tapestries, this ancient tale addresses the universal themes of love, loss, and self-discovery.

On view the Museum’s rotunda, British filmmaker Alison de Vere’s short animated film, Psyche and Eros (1994),offers a contemporary interpretation of this rich mythological narrative. Collaboratively created by de Vere and her husband, artist Karl Weschke, this retelling of the myth provides a particularly personal and poignant dimension to the character of Psyche, and illustrates the story’s enduring significance in contemporary culture.The Museum has organized a series of free public programs and events in tandem with the exhibitions. All events are open to the public free of charge. For more information, visit the BCMA website.

thumb: